Concerns are mounting over another possible upward swing in coronavirus cases. While there does appear to be legitimate reason to worry, especially with the problematic variant and breakthrough and double positivity cases on the rise, proper perspective is important.
Worcester County’s positivity rate was 3.46% on Wednesday (above the statewide 2.45%). This is a low number that should not result in a panic and drastic changes to the normal aspects of life being enjoyed today. For comparison, the last time the county’s positive rate exceeded 5% was in early May. We continue to trend in the right direction, but we should all return to keeping an eye on the data moving forward because there is an upswing, not a spike, in cases.
The good news is thus far state government officials seem to have a good take on the upward trend, and there appears to be a policy of letting “local rule” carry important decisions. With some wide extremes of case data, vaccination levels and individual demographics at play, it’s paramount local officials get to make calls for themselves on weighty matters like face coverings, for example.
With the calendar flipping to August this weekend, the focus is turning to school for families with school-aged kids as well as teachers. The thought all along was the school year here would begin without masks and basically be normal with the exception of transportation. Some jurisdictions, such as the two largest school systems in the state, Montgomery and Baltimore counties, have already said masks will be required for all because of the CDC’s updated guidance.
It’s important to remember this is guidance, but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s comments on SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio Reports hosted by Dr. Marc Siegel are concerning because of the blanket approach.
“With the goal of leaning in and making sure we can get our children back to school full-time and knowing that the majority of people who are attending these schools will not be fully vaccinated, we are now recommending that everybody wear masks in the schools indoors,” she said. “We’ve seen throughout the summer in summer schools, places that have not imposed those prevention strategies, are having outbreaks and have had to close. So what we’re recommending now is that everyone in K through 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including all teachers, staff, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. And we’ve come to that for several reasons now, even different from where we were in early July, when our guidance came out initially. First is we simply have more Delta now than we did then. Second, we have more than twice the number of infections now than we did then. Third is that we don’t have a vaccine for 11 and under, we knew that and our 12 to 17-year-olds, we only have about a third of people vaccinated at this time.”
Her comments about summer school are wrong fir Worcester County. There was no outburst of cases in summer school or even at summer camps. After July 1, masking was optional at summer school. Yet, there was not a reported shift in positive cases.
Further good news for parents weary of masking their children again is Worcester County Public Schools officials have shown a reasoned, though aggressive approach throughout the pandemic. Decision makers have shown a resistance to over-reacting to every change in guidance from the federal levels, understanding Worcester County is unique. This is sound leadership.
Without a major spike in positivity – say exceeding 5% for more than 10 days straight, for example – we think Worcester schools should reopen in the fall under the same plan as the summer – masks are optional with best efforts continuing to be made to distance the children when possible.